Tag Archives: Tika

Ua – New Caledonia

What a gem!

Ua is a small uninhabited island less than a km long and maybe 400m wide at its widest. At 22 42.30S 166 48.39E, it is about 30Nm W of Kuna in amongst the many reefs that fall S some 40Nm from the end of the main island to the drop off. Not an anchorage recommended to visitors using the small charter fleet, it leaves it free for liveaboard visitors, the occasional local family on a fishing boat and other infrequent visitors.

P1120362

We anchored in 35’ of water on sand in the crescent bay at the NW corner of the island. It is sheltered but here is a wraparound N swell that finds its way into the bay. Not too bad for us catamarans but if you weren’t close in to the island, it can be a bit rolly for the monos.

There is only one small gap in the reef to get on to the island at the N end of the beach. Take care to find the right cut in through the beach and make sure you have the engine up to half mast as it gets v shallow at low tide.

We explored the island and saw two Osprey nests, one in a tree, the other no more than four feet off the ground 100m through the scrub forest from the dinghy landing point.

 P1120389P1120418

We didn’t see the birds until we explored the island. After we had turned to walk N on the E shore, we startled four juvenile Ospreys who had yet to find the courage to leave the island. They flew above us, keening and obviously not happy that we were there so we turned round and left them to settle down. We listened to them crying away throughout our stay.

P1120429

We had been communicating with Tika by Messenger for quite a while, wondering if we would get the chance to see them again. They decided that one last rendezvous was in order. We had a moment when Russell and I realised that there were islands with all too similar names and there was still 15+ miles between us! They pushed hard to get down to us, arriving just around last light to anchor behind us. It was great seeing them again. It wasn’t long before Tika Taka, their rather splendid dinghy, was down in the water and it was great watching the kids pushing her hard around the bay. Hannah was effective ballast and thoroughly enjoyed hiking out! Although the Mirror dinghy that I learnt my sailing on is on offer to the girls when we get home, I rather think it is unlikely that they will experience this kind of weather for a while!

 P1120370P1120373P1120374

Tika weren’t able to stick around for long. I have to admit, yet again, at feeling jealous watching Tika depart as she accelerated from 0 to 10+kts in a few boat lengths as her main filled. She left us in 20+kts with a full main up, the wind on her beam, tearing away towards Noumea.

P1120387

We had several days of simple pleasures, snorkelling on the reefs around the island, exploring the island, having a bonfire on the beach and doing a little bit of socialising. Wet suits were definitely needed but drying out in the sun on a walk was an enjoyable après snorkel activity.

P1120391P1120395P1120399P1120425P1120446P1120450

Ua provided us with some of the best snorkelling in the Pacific. That’s a big statement but the life on the reef running N from the island was magnificent. There was more colour in the coral than I’d seen anywhere else, the mix of coral was fantastic and the fish life was superb. At 21C the water temperature felt cold but this presumably has helped protect the reef from the heavy bleaching so evident E in the mid Pacific island groups. 

Russell asked if I was able to take the Tika kids down for a dive and that I did. Jaiya (her first ever), Hannah and Kai each got a short dive along the best bit of the reef wall about 100m N from the end of the island. It was a shallow dive and we didn’t have to go any deeper than 8m. I went back and had another couple of dives. I spent the time trying not to smile at the gloriousness of life I saw. Magnificent!

GOPR5045

GOPR5045-1GOPR5051-1

GOPR5060

GOPR5061GOPR5065GOPR5067GOPR5043

GOPR5074GOPR5077GOPR5081GOPR5083

GOPR5084GOPR5086GOPR5088

GOPR5087

With just a few days left before we needed to be in Noumea for Skylark’s survey and the imminent arrival of Kostya, the new owner, we needed to move. We left Ua and moved the 30 odd miles to a bay just shy of Noumea for our very last night on the hook. Skylark didn’t disappoint on our last real sail as a family on board and we swept NW at 8kts on a beam reach.

P1120447

The Island of Tanna – Vanuatu

We had a last hurrah in Fiji at Vuda Point Marina where we had to go to book out from the country. Why the Immigration and Customs staff are based there rather than the somewhat bigger Port Denarau where all the super yachts are, I really don’t know. However, it necessitated us moving the 5 miles across the bay where we got the chance to meet up with Be and Be, languishing in Vuda Point still waiting for the parts to fix their sail drives, broken all the way back in Viani Bay. The kids hung out and had a good time and we said our goodbyes to Peta and Geoff. We are hoping that they will be fixed in time for us all to have a last blast together in New Caledonia. Fingers crossed that the repairs work out.

We made a rather tedious passage across from Fiji to Vanuatu, a distance of about 450miles as the crow flies. The first 36hrs were wild and racy and we charged along. However we fell into a hole and slopped along before the wind turned to our nose and we had to beat. I’m afraid I got v bored and decided to turn on the get there juice. We motored in the last 20 miles to arrive in daylight rather than wait until the next morning.  Tika and Time Bandit had screamed across and both were in over a day ahead of us but handily were able to confirm route in and anchorage. Oh to be 10’ longer and that fast…….

P1110519

We had a strange time trying to spot land as we beat up towards Tanna. We could see the island of Futuna, a rarely visited island some 30 miles E of Tanna from a huge distance away, over 50miles but Tanna itself remained obscured until we were 20 miles away.

P1110534 (3)

We decided that the dragon we saw in the clouds, coming directly from the volcano on Tanna must have had something to do with it!

The Island of Tanna - Vanuatu

We had received permission to enter Vanuatu at Port Resolution on the island of Tanna, not a entry port but the closest anchorage to the famously active Mt Yasur, the most accessible volcano in the world. Although Customs and Immigration Officers will come across the island to book people in (with a significant additional cost), we got permission from Customs HQ at Port Vila, the capital, to simply enjoy our stay and formally book in once we reached Port Vila. We were charged a $50 unnamed entry port fee once we reached Efate. I’ll write more on this issue in our next blog post on Port Vila.

Tanna in the local dialect translates as “earth”. So the story goes, when Capt Cook arrived on the island he lifted up a handful of earth from the ground and asked what it was. Confused, rather than tell him the island name (what I think he was after) the locals said “tanna”. So the island was named on Capt Cooks chart and so it has stayed.

Navionics’ mapping appears to be a problem yet again in Vanuatu. Port Resolution, a major bay on the SE corner of Tanna doesn’t even show up as an anchorage. Thankfully I had bought the Rocket Guide to Vanuatu (a quite excellent publication which I wholeheartedly recommend) which had lots of details and handily, some waypoints that would get me in to the bay. We dropped in about 20’on to hard black sand. Great holding. We were a little surprised to find the bay full of other yachts. However, as we were in the process of dropping the hook, many of them were upping sticks and heading out. The yachts were from the Island Cruising Association Rally from NZ and having had their short stop in Tanna were off again heading N. By the next day they had all gone and it was far more peaceful. The locals mainly fished in the bay and no one used anything else other than a traditional dug out canoe from a single tree with outrigger. We did some trading with a couple of them. Biscuits (cookies), matches and cooking oil were traded for local fruit and veg.

P1110552P1110575

The bay initially had a NW wind blowing, bringing ash from the volcano down in to the anchorage. We had been told if the volcano was active this could be dangerous, hot ash not going well with fibreglass hulls but all we got was a very fine black power in great quantity. We tried to keep up with the cleaning but it was wasted effort. Note – even a month after our visit to Tanna, we are still washing off black volcanic dust from the deck daily. Pernickety stuff!

Tanna

The bay is well sheltered from any wind other than a NE when a sharp sea can set in. The advice is to leave quickly if the wind sets there. Volcanic activity is evident around the bay as well with smoke vents and small hot water springs pouring into the bay on its W side. There is the “Yacht Club” on the E side of the bay where you can arrange trips to local villages, eating out and of course a visit to the volcano. Park your dinghy on the rocky beach by the fishing boats and walk up the hill to the club. The view is lovely and they sell beer! It has a few huts with basic amenities (that doesn’t include lights after dark!) which can be rented. When we were there there was a Australian group of  volunteer dentists and medics staying there. They come in twice a year to treat the locals. They said that if there were problems, all they could do is extractions as there was no way they could do any follow up treatments. Thankfully the generally dental standard of the locals is pretty good, mainly they think because the diet is a traditional one with low sugar content.

After a day of the NW rubbish we had to beat into to reach Tanna, the wind relented and changed back to the more normal SE trade. It was good to meet up with Stop Work Order again who arrived the morning after we did who had a passage much like our own – sloppy and not that quick. Of course the girls were soon in contact and Jaiya, Truly and Hannah were soon as thick as thieves, added to with the arrival of another kids boat, Fluenta with the Shaw family on board.

TannaTanna

The main reason to visit Tanna is the volcano of Mt Yasur. Tika, having arrived 24hrs before us had already liaised with the locals and had arranged for Time Bandit, Tika and ourselves to visit the volcano together. Stop Work Order joined us which led to a bit of fun in the transport.  4+4+5+2 seemed a squeeze for one vehicle and we were promised a second car. Of course it didn’t turn up. I’m sure it wasn’t legal but we all piled in. The big adults went inside and the rest of us clambered in to the cage on the back, holding on for dear life!

The dirt roads on Tanna are a lane and a half (at best) track and are covered by volcanic ash. It made for a dusty and exhilarating bumpy ride for the 20km to the park entrance.  Some of the trees we saw were magnificent, huge banyan type affairs that the locals revere.

TannaTannaTanna

Once we were at the entrance to the park we were welcomed with flowers and then a demonstration of local dancing. These days a trip to the volcano is very commercialised and not cheap. It cost us $60US for the transport and then about another $100US a head for the volcano itself.

TannaTanna

After the short presentation and welcome, we jumped back into the vehicles for the 10min ride up on to the volcanic plain beside the volcano itself. Sadly we didn’t know about the bizarrely placed post box and as there was nowhere to buy either cards or stamps we didn’t get to send Shona, a fan of exotically posted cards, one to remember!

TannaTanna

Mt Yasur itself is fantastic. You arrive about a couple of hours before sunset and troop up under the careful supervision of a bunch of locals. They decided to tighten things up after a tourist got squished by falling debris a few years ago. Health and Safety isn’t a high priority in Vanuatu but they are trying. Active volcanic activity is measured on a sliding scale between 1-5 with anything over 2 being cause for serious concern. We visited when the activity was at 2 which is the highest the authorities will now allow people to approach the caldera. Even so, the initial position we were taken to by the guides became a little dangerous as falling magma from the eruptions, occurring every few minutes, started to land 50m in front of us and we were moved to a new position further to the NW of the caldera. There are no rails or paths to follow as you troop around the edge. Just guidance to stay back a little from it and not to fall in! With more instructions to “Keep looking up and no running” if there was a big explosion ringing in our ears we kept a careful eye on where the wind was and where the fallout was at each mini eruption.

In the daylight, the volcano is mainly to do with bangs and huge billowing clouds of sulphurous smelling nastiness.

P1110706TannaTanna

As the sun sets, what was impressive becomes extraordinary as the three different magma tubes feeding into the caldera become very evident. The power of the volcano (in a relative quiet mode) is belittling and you can understand why the locals thought that the volcano speaks with the voice of the Gods. The bangs are bloody noisy. The power of even a small eruption is scary.

TannaTannaTannaTanna

Here is one of the bigger bangs we had.

We were allowed a little more than an hour at the top before being shepherded back to the vehicles and the dusty ride back towards the anchorage.

We had arranged for a meal at one of the locals houses. Sally, the lady in question served us all and another family just in that day for a total of 26 of us sitting down. It was the largest gathering she had ever had. We fed very well for the grand total price of 800vatu a head – about $8. Excellent value for a selection of local dishes, lots of fish and a papaya and banana pudding.

TannaTanna

The three year old dude below is Ben of Fluenta. He decided that dark specs were required and carried the 70’s look off with aplomb. Marvel, take note. A Spiderman of the future!

Tanna

Having had four days around the bay and lots of interaction between the four kids’ boats, we headed out a couple of hours after Tiki who were heading straight for Ambrym for the festival due to start there a few days later. Sadly we didn’t get to see the pod of Humpback Whales they saw playing at the entrance to the bay. We just haven’t had the luck.

This was to be the last sail for Eleanor as she would be leaving the boat to return to the UK to start senior school. The wind was kind and we reached N overnight towards Efate, the main island of Vanuatu. Stop Work Order charged past us looking good with the volcano in the background.

Tanna

Tanna

The Return of Taia – Fiji

We parted company with Taia in the Caribbean all the way back in Grenada in Oct 15. Our very first meeting had been in the Bahamas at Big Major’s Cay with the swimming pigs, when a dad with noticeably painted toenails and two kids dinghied up to say they had seen us come in but were just leaving on their way S. Bugger, we thought. First proper kids boat we had seen with smalls the same age and we hadn’t managed to even overlap our stay for a day!

We met them again a couple of weeks later after Eleanor had demanded “kids to play with” for her 9th birthday and we had run S to Elizabeth Harbour, Georgetown at the bottom of the Exumas, the great stepping off point to the Caribbean.  Taia was already there and we quickly formed a good friendship with them, even if Ernesto regularly took the mickey out of my tiny dinghy, running around it in his and offering everybody a fast, dry ride back to Skylark from Volleyball Beach, our daily hangout, rather than being swamped in ours. There were times I could have happily punched him.

We separated again. We went offshore, taking the I-65 route to the BVI; Taia took the Thorny Path via Dominica Republic, Puerto Rico and then E through USVI. But inevitably we met again. We heard them on the radio one day, hailed them and they chased across from USVI to find us at the Soggy Dollar beach. This time it was us getting ready to move on but the evening before we did, we got a visit from Ernesto to tell us that Cami and Matias had mutinied. They had told their folks that wherever Skylark was heading, they wanted to go too. And so it was. Sadly this is a period we have almost no photos from but I did find this one when we visited Salt Island together. Just look at the size of them then and now!

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

After that,  the rest of the 2015 in the Caribbean was spent for the most in each other’s company. And we loved it.  We got used to the daily ritual of mate, a drinking habit they had brought with them from Argentina, their home before they emigrated to Canada and I, of the fun you had booking in with Ernesto for company, a man who just loathes officialdom!

Of course circumstances change. During hurricane season in Grenada when we were getting ready to plan our route across to Panama, they made the decision that they weren’t ready to follow us, planning to stay another year in the Caribbean. We said our farewells in Nov 15 as they left Taia on the hard and jumped back to Canada for a while to refill coffers.

Move on over 18 months and we get the call from Natalia wondering if our invitation to visit us in the Pacific still stood. Yes as a response meant tickets quickly bought and we welcomed Natalia and the kids for a fortnight.

The kids took off pretty much from where they left off and the excitement both sets showed at meeting each other again was lovely to see. The gifts of proper maple syrup and a variety of Canadian deli delights as well as a few boat parts was a wonderful ice breaker too. 

We had a bit of work to do on the boat at Port Denarau. The bimini was taken off to allow the solar panel holders to be restitched with UV thread, the sail cover had a couple of holes patched and I got a new tape sewn on the foot of the parasail. The water maker had been gradually producing poorer and poorer quality water – the membrane being shot after, I think, a little bit of contamination in FP. It is a simple job to replace a membrane but getting one sourced meant reaching out to NZ to find the Spectra dealer there as the Fijian dealer didn’t hold them. Some $600+ later, we had a new membrane. Typically, it got stuck in Customs and I decided to wait until the end of the Natalia’s visit to get it fixed rather than waste time getting it cleared.  Whilst I got the boat sorted out, the kids went to the nearby Bula Waterpark. Not a cheap activity at $180US a family day ticket but guaranteed fun. Be and Be who were still at Vuda Point awaiting parts came too.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

We headed out for Musket Cove and took Dylan and Jayden from Sangvind with us too. I’m afraid Eleanor had a bit of fun with Dylan. All I’ll say is that he is a good sport and scrubs up nicely Smile. The Return of Taia - Fiji

It was an easy two hour sail and it was good watching Natalia smile and watch the stress of “normal” life bleed off her as we crossed over from the mainland. I rather think she enjoyed being back on the water.

The Return of Taia - Fiji

We spent a few days there , exploring the island, enjoying the pool, meeting up with Sangvind for evening BBQs at the Yacht Club, just slowing down and relaxing. The kids hung out with the kids from Pesto, Sangvind and Miss Goodnight.

 The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

We took a run up to the northern reef of Malolo and got a wall dive in with Natalia. It was an pleasant dive with the wall no more than 20m with reasonable coral life.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

Eleanor went off with the Musket Cove Dive School for a couple of dives. Eric and Anne Simmons have been looking after the school whilst their friend the owner is away doing a bit of sailing. They are better known as the couple that have written an excellent free sailing guide for Vanuatu in conjunction with Vanuatu Tourism. I arrived back to pick her up and Eleanor was buzzing. I’d said that Eleanor was very good technically and had excellent buoyancy. What I hadn’t expected is for them to check this out, agree, then take her down to a depth that had my eyes bulging. She had a fantastic time and saw some great wildlife. Both Eric and Alice are expert underwater photographers and I thank them for the copies below.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

When we cruised the Lau’s, our chart plotter was off markedly against what Navionics said I should find but at least everything we saw appeared on the chart. The mapping data against GPS was up to about half a mile out in accuracy. A couple of hours after we left Musket Cove to explore the island of Moniriki, used for the filming of Tom Hanks’ film, Cast Away, I was very surprised to see breaking waves in front of me. Not just a rock, but a reef at least 750m long by 300m deep. And completely uncharted by Navionics!

 The Return of Taia - Fiji

After we did a big detour to avoid it, I noted at least another three unmarked large bommies as we closed up to our destination. It was really a little off putting and I’m glad we had the sun overhead as we travelled. It is obvious why Fiji doesn’t have a charter fleet business. Whilst it is a magnificent cruising destination, unless you have accurate mapping, there is no way I’d let the occasional sailor loose in Fiji. There would be just too high a chance of something going wrong. Even the liveaboards screw up. Four boats sank in Fijian waters whilst we were there, all because of charting inaccuracies, an over reliance on electronics, a belief a chart plotter is always right and not keeping a proper lookout. Too many folk treat their plotter as gospel. We luckily learnt early that in this part of the Pacific at least, they were but an approximation of reality and always kept a good look out. Frankly I’ve been less than impressed with Navionics. If they can use Google Earth satellite photos to correct and update the charts for FP, why on Earth can’t they do it for Fiji? I accept there is a cost implication to it but I’m afraid that for a major sailing destination, they should be doing a lot better.

Moniriki does not have the easiest of anchorages and we had a few dramas, managing to wrap a prop as we failed to hold in the v steep anchorage all too close to shore. In the end it took 20 minutes diving to clear the prop and one move under engine to move us away from a reef when we drifted a bit close to it for my liking. I think Lou enjoyed dragging me through the water whilst I hung on like grim death with arms of Garth! With time wasted and dark o’clock approaching, we aborted our attempt to get ashore and headed S again to find a suitable anchorage for the night. Most of the anchorages around this part of the Mananutha group are day anchorages only and I certainly didn’t want to take the chance of dragging off the very steep and narrow coral ledge which is all that Moniriki has.

I decided to head back down to Mana, the island N of Malolo, and a known anchorage. Although the entrance through the reef is a little tight and a double dog leg, it proved well marked and easy once you were in the channel. We anchored at  in 40’ on sand just off the jetty. Good holding. The island resort welcomes sailors and the beach is lovely. We spent the afternoon there, playing in the pool, on the beach and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, ably helped along by some rather excellent cocktails. Natalia was on her holidays after all.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

We headed N the next morning as soon as there was light enough for us to get through the gap in the reef safely and went back up to Moniriki. We had breakfast on the way, enjoying the fair wind and the prospect of a blue sky day.

The Return of Taia - Fiji

As the wind had moved further in to the E, I decided that I wasn’t going to anchor on a lee shore so dropped the dinghy and let the crew go ashore. I stayed with Skylark and happily drifted in the lee of the island. I’m glad I did as I found what would seem to be the most perfect beach I have seen. On the wrong side of the island, it is obviously rarely visited due to the distance and rough country between it and the normal drop off point for visitors. It would be worth a proper explore with camping kit if you could get a settled period to anchor or get someone to drop you off for a night. Just beautiful. Oh to have the time to explore more. Maybe somewhere to plan to come back to…….

The Return of Taia - Fiji

The mob had a fantastic time on the other side of the island, for the most part without any tourists intruding as we had arrived early in the morning, well before any of the tours rock up.

The Return of Taia - Fiji

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

We continued N towards the island of Yawa and went in to the southerly bay. It can get rolly (say the guides) but it was lovely and flat as we hugged the E side of the bay

We anchored in 50’ of sand off the village of Naboro at Yawasewa. We wanted to explore the S end of the island and climb the hill so we headed in to see the local chief and do sevusevu. We were welcomed and had a interesting time in the village. The chief took us up to see some of the work of the ladies in the village and he and I chewed the fat with him sitting outside whilst the ladies and Matius looked over the wares. Everyone got a necklace, with sharks teeth being the preferred option.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

Climbing the hill we wandered past the village school that was on its break and had a quick chat with the kids there.

 The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

After a night and a day, we moved around the corner to the Oyster Bay Resort on the NW corner of Yawa. There is a posh side and a backpackers side separated by security and a big fence which you walk past if you use the beach. A bit pointless really. As boaties, we were allowed on the posh side. We had a nice walk and met the quite excellent dive school at the Resort who were perfectly happy to fill my bottles and did so twice in the course of a day as Cami, Eleanor and I had some fun just offshore at one of the small reefs.

I’d had instructions from Ernesto to make sure I took Cami down diving and we managed to get a couple in, the first at at Oyster to about 12m where we found a mini cabbage patch in the making and then a second dive at Navadra where we had a good wall dive along the inside of the W wall of the islet.

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

We travelled S again, back to the island of Navadra where a kids boat meet up had been organised. In the end there were 22 kids, 16 adults and 7 boats that turned up, an excellent turn out. Our thanks to Greer of Tika for all the organisation, over a month in the making. In the bay were some regulars, Tika, Pesto, Skylark, Lil’ Explorers, Sangvind as well as Enough, last seen in NZ and Outer Rim who Lou had been in contact with since they had come through the Panama Canal but had never met before.

The Return of Taia - Fiji

Sadly, we had but a day before we had to return to Nadi to allow Natalia and the kids to return home but what a 24hrs! It was quickly determined that the kids would be sleeping ashore and then the whirl around the boats saying hello and having fun started. We did give them a little help setting up the campsite and we had a fire and BBQ for them on the beach, near the campsite. We needed to extinguish a few fires as the older pyromaniacs got a bit fire happy but there was no damage and it was all fun.

My thanks to Greer for letting me use some great photos. Next time around the shopping list will include a drone. Brilliant shots!

 The Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - FijiThe Return of Taia - Fiji

This one Greer took of Jayden of Sangvind watching the dolphins must be up there as one of the best photos I’ve seen with a boat kid. This is the kind of life experience we boat parents all dream of giving our kids, beautifully captured.

The Return of Taia - Fiji

After corralling the kids just after first light (they had been up for hours) and dragging them off the island, we had a bumpy ride back down to Nadi where we had arranged for the engineer from Baobab Marine to replace the membrane on the watermaker.  Natalia and the kids last day with us was spent at the Hilton for an afternoon beside the pool and a last classy meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. We said our goodbyes at the marina and their departure was delayed slightly for some big hugs and a few tears.

It was lovely to have Natalia and the kids on board. Our friendship was renewed and strengthened in the short time they were with us. The time flew past.  It looks as if we will be doing a fair bit of international travel after we return to the UK. We have reciprocal standing invitations to visit Canada and the USA now. Shena, Natalia – we will need to do some planning! What is there to do halfway between North Carolina and Toronto…. or somewhere else? We need diving and a boat…….

The Return of Taia - Fiji

Opua, NZ – Two divers in the family

We moved about three km S from the Bay of Islands Marina to Malcolm and Helen’s house and we stayed with them for about 10 days. It was great place to base ourselves from and we were well looked after, getting some good steers on what to do around the area.  

We got the chance to see a bit more the Bay of Islands by way of an invite out on Tika. We lucked out on the weather and had a great day, exploring  Moturua island and playing on the beach. The walk around the island is well worth doing and takes far less time than suggested on the signs. we ripped around it in less than half the time it was supposed to. I’m not sure if we were supposed to take more time on the beach on the W side of the island or we just aren’t fat Americans…..

OpuaOpuaOpua

We ended up staying in the Opua area longer than we planned. When we were in the Tuamotus, Eleanor had snorkelled above me whilst I dived. Having had a taste of the world underwater using Almost There’s hookah diving system and being our walking encyclopaedia of tropical fish, she was continually at me at the end of my dives to use my regulator “to have a go” before I got back in the dinghy. Once in NZ, I saw that the local school I was intending to dive had applied the new PADI rules and would teach children at 10. After a bit of discussion between Lou and myself, we signed Eleanor up for the Open Water course. Eleanor, we thought, would be able to take the discipline required for diving – if given a rule or procedure she follows it. Our real only reservation was the temperature of the water. At 16C, it would be a challenge for someone so small to stay warm.   

I shouldn’t have worried. Her instructors were somewhat surprised at how enthusiastically she threw herself in and although she admitted to being a bit cold at times, she just got on with it without whinging. Good girl!

Opua

Having smashed her exam the day before, I dived with Eleanor on her last qualifying dives and was impressed with how well she managed her buoyancy. She is still excited enough to be carrying far too much weight but that will come down in time and helped as she moves to lightweight shorties back in waters warmer than she experienced here! She finished her course exhilarated and quickly became even more so after we bought her her own BCD. I will have my own diving partner when we get back up to French Polynesia!. Our thanks to Faye, her instructor and the PaihiaDive owner, Craig for looking after her so well. We also went looking for a first and second stage and dive computer and have organised them to be sent from the UK. Sadly it is less expensive to buy diving kit in the UK (or USA) by about 30-50% for brand names and have it sent here, even when paying the import tax. Stupid pricing rules being applied.

Opua

Whilst Eleanor was diving, Lou and Hannah spent many a happy hour in the Op shops around the area. Hannah’s wardrobe is growing at an alarming rate but her taste is pretty good. It is just as well we will be giving all the clothes she has been picking up back to one lucky Op shop before we go. They alone would be over her baggage allowance! They even managed to get some culture in too. A famous artist, Hundertwasser,  was given the opportunity to personalise the local toilets in Kawakawa and using recycled material, he did. They are now a major tourist attraction.

OpuaNZ

I drove Starcharger’s new car down to Whangerie whilst they sailed down. We left the girls with a sleepover with Tika (thanks, folks) and Lou and I got to meet Mia, coming to the end of her tour around NZ with the (officially) new man and all round good bloke, Christian. We had a great night and I am sorry to say that we broke Christian. More practise required, mate! Mia has now headed back to Denmark and the realities of job (boo), clothes (yeah!) and a few weeks holiday a year (definitely boo!). We look forward to seeing us hook up with her and Christian again once we hit the UK next year.

Opua

 

N Island

In an attempt to pay back a little of their wonderful hospitality, I had more fun in Malcolm and Helen’s garden, cutting down a lot of gorse, chopping down a couple of trees (proper big ones too) and mowing up and down their hilly garden. I think I left them well pleased with my efforts. They do have an extra couple of hillsides that they can walk up now and perhaps more chance to keep it in check than before.

We said our goodbyes after an excellent final night’s BBQ and clutching a huge jar of active Manuka honey as a leaving present, headed N in the company of Quatsino and Starcharger.

Time to explore N Island!

Opua

Crossing the Pacific–Part II

Day 14 – Mon 23 May   05 20.310S  116 37.725W  141miles

We had a good run overnight but the wind diminished in the morning to a frustrating 9kts and went back into the ESE then later, ENE. Think I might just ignore forecasts from now on. We waited for it to settle down then threw the parasail up which has pulled us along nicely all day. We decided on the basis we hadn’t seen the wind go beyond 13kts true, to keep the parasail up for the night. We will sleep in the cockpit in case we need to get it down quickly. A great day’s sail on a wonderfully pacific sea.

We are starting to see some growth on the hull – not that we are stopping to clean it. We made use of a trick that I had heard of which is to drag a line along side the hull and just leave it to rub the hull around the waterline. It seemed to work although the line needs to be in the water for a couple of hours per hull.

It is no surprise when there is little to do on a long passage that meals become hugely important events. It was the same on my Atlantic trip I did where we lucked out with a Navy Lt Comd called Tim who was a brilliant amateur chef. After he took over the galley, life was very pleasant. We aren’t doing badly either with some great food coming out of our galley and, with some good planning by Lou, we still have plenty of fresh fruit and a small supply of veg left.

Eleanor made the dough for our bread this morning. We are making dough every second day and then mixing and matching what we make with it.

P1020243_thumb1   P1020246_thumb1

 

Lou has got a great inventory of bread types. Plain loaf, rolls, rosemary, flat, nan, coriander, pita, the list goes on and gives us a great variety to enjoy. There is nothing better than the smell of newly made bread wafting around the cabin. Today was a simple loaf. Added to that, she dug out a frozen pack of bacon so lunch was a magnificent bacon and egg butty. It’s the simple things in life!   This evening’s offering was a rather good curry.

We transferred 25 gal of diesel in jerry cans to the tank today. We have been using the generator a couple of hours a day and the tank had just reached half full. Most of that diesel usage was from running the engines during the first couple of days when we needed to motorsail down to the trades – certainly the generator doesn’t take much. In this heat, I prefer to have as much fuel as I can in the tank to prevent any condensation that may occur.

I saw a falling star tonight. Not a shooting star, a proper falling star. I thought it was a flare at first. It burnt out just to the N of us. Quite beautiful.

Day 15 – Tue 24 May    05 52.856S  118 53.656W  127miles

Our first sail with the parasail up overnight went well. The wind ranged from 6 to 10kts from the ENE and it dragged us along beautifully at a 6kt average. It makes such a difference to the daily total if you can press on overnight. The daytime wind was no better. A light wind of 10-13kts from the ENE again. Thank you, Mr Parasail. If we didn’t have you, we would be having a tedious day of rolling. As it is, 5s and 6s is reasonable.

Dawn is getting later and later again. Nearly time for another time zone. I hope tomorrow to move to –8UTC. Then there will be just one more to go before we hit the Marquesas who are on –9.5UTC.

When we are sailing we always have the scale to include the boat and the destination. There is something very satisfying being able to go down a scale and watch your destination get bigger on the screen. Today we were able to go from the 1200miles to the 600mile scale. Still a long, long way to go but it brought a smile to my face.

I had a nice chat with Vaguebond this morning. Ivan was saying that he has been running under twin headsails for the last six days. He hasn’t had to touch them once! Nice way to sail. We have been running on a converging course for some days now and are about 40 miles NNW of him.

The girls did a bit of a clean up this morning. H found her missing sunglasses (what started the whole cleaning thing off), E brushed so much hair off the floor (is it true that girls moult? I have compelling proof…..) and their side of the boat now smells of lemon all purpose cleaner.

P10202511_thumb

Hannah, a touch distracted, found lots of postcards that we hadn’t got around to writing. Sounds like a something to do this afternoon!

 

Day 16 – Wed 25 May 06 07.748S  120.47.476W      131miles           TIME ZONE CHANGE to -8UTC

We had to change down to the jib just after midnight this morning as a huge black lump of nastiness rolled across us. It lasted a while so we decided to wait for first light to throw the parasail back up. As soon as we did the wind came back in beautifully and went back into the SE giving us a fantastic broad reach with full plain sail. A bit bouncy and bangy but fun as well. The wind dropped in the evening to 10kts, enough to make sure we are still moving at a respectable pace.

We should have really changed time zones yesterday but we waited for the 120W line. Only one more to go now.

Activities today? A chocolate cake (slightly over done), a loaf (perfect) and a bag of laundry using the the ammonia technique which seems to work so well.

Boat maintenance?  I had to reset the solar controllers. I have three different controllers. Two of them automatically condition the batteries once a month and the Blue Solar controller for the main panels doesn’t like it. I’m sure there is a more elegant solution but at the moment I resort to disconnecting it at the batteries to reboot it. Seems to work. Whilst I was in with the batteries I checked water levels and refilled with a surprising amount of distilled water  – over a litre between the four batteries. I’ll need more from Hiva Oa as I have only 500ml left. As I filled the batteries at Santa Cruz just a month ago, I think I’d better keep a closer eye on them. One cell was dangerously close to exposure. I may need to up the regularity of the checks.

We had luck fishing today. We caught a small 3kg Mahi followed 15 minutes later by this beast. Good eating for us for a few days!

P1020253_thumb2

 

Finally, Happy birthday to my best mate John! Hannah sang Happy Birthday, we ate cake and reminisced on a memorable day we had with John and Sharlene a while ago, walking down to the pub via the duck pond and then playing bananagrams in the evening. We need a repeat performance when we get home.

Day 17 – Thu 26 May   06 45.762S  122 52.136W    118 miles

The wind backed at midnight to ENE, leaving us with options of dropping the main or running a lot further S than we wanted. We ended up under jib until first light at which point the wind moved back to the SE, the main went back up and we started moving at more than 4kts again. I wish the wind would just stay in one place. The consequence of this fluking around is a small side swell that forms on the main long swell which then gives you a couple of hours of washing machine before it all calms down again. It is a right pain and meant a slow morning.

The wind was kind enough to come round far enough E to get the parasail back up. The difference in pace is a knot and a half. I think we will try and run it tonight as well, keeping a close eye out for squalls. The moon will be up at about 2200 local so we will have a couple of hours of dark before it gets light enough to see any rubbish coming in at us.

I had to clean the log again. I always find it a little worrying pulling the log and watching, just for that split second before you get the dummy in, the ocean flowing in to the boat through that hole in the hull! There was a little growth on it, quickly cleaned. It is still working flakily so there may be an electrical problem too.

No one was in a particularly good mood today. Little happened other than arguments.

Dinner tonight was some of the Mahi we caught yesterday.

Too much cloud and little wind meant long runs on the generator today.

Day 18 – Fri 27 May  07 12.104S  124 57.522W   129 miles

What a quiet night! The wind dropped and dropped to the point that the parasail was collapsing – a whole 4kts of wind – but  came back enough that in the flat sea we had, we made some good mileage. First light saw us with 10kts from the ENE.

Lou and I are tired and we both need to get our mojo back. E and H stood watch for a couple of hours each whilst we tried to catch up on some sleep. They did well.

I repaired one of the fishing rods. After an unfortunate incident involving a winch, a jib sheet, the tip and Eleanor, the last 4” of the rod was broken. It was a simple job to grind down the end of the rod. Not quite so easy was to clean out the old tip but judicious use of the blow torch and brute violence stood me in good stead! I had a go at cleaning up the rarely used kid’s rods and reels. Perhaps we should have paid more than $20 for them as the reels,  “precision engineered” (says so on the label so must be true) Chinese rubbish were rusted solid.

We have had the parasail up all day. We have decided to start worrying about the strength of the wind when the wind generator starts turning again. Light air sailing………

Comms seem to have gone for a burton. Manahi is supposed to be the closest and strongest station for Airmail that I can use but it just isn’t working. The only thing I have had from it was a message to email the guy who runs it and use his services whilst I’m there. Not very happy. It means I am trying to hit San Diego to get my email, which is taking time. I reckon I have had a lot more than my 30min a month this month. Think Quatra may have had finger problems. I got their posn email eight times today saying they were under a 1000 to go to Gambier but had no wind. At least we are moving.

Lots of emails from people we know telling us about the Marquesas. We can’t wait! Sadly I think we will miss Quatsino, already looking for a weather window to the “Tomatoes” (Lorna’s description!) and Free Spirit is well on their way to Tahiti already to get David back on a plane to Australia. I hope we catch up with both of them down the road.

Of note, my beard came off today. I had intended to keep it until we reached land but I was bored of the scratching. Although the girls find it funny, the three tone colouring (ginger, grey and white) is an odd look.  I don’t think it suits me…….

Day 19 – Sat 28 May  07 30.532S  127 03.225W  118 miles

The wind stayed light for the night and we pushed with 5 and 6s. It strengthened in the morning to the point we really should have brought the parasail down but doing 9 and 10s was too much fun and in the gusts I bore away and ran to lessen the effect.  The wind strengthened to 20kts in the afternoon and the parasail had to come down. We had a nasty side slop mixed with the main swell of 10’. We sailed with white sail initially but the angle was terrible and we had to go down to jib only. 

I’m pretty sure we are losing at least half a knot with the growth we have on the hull. I have cleaned what I can off with rope and a scrapper lashed on to a pole but we are pretty gungy. Much as we had when we arrived in at the Galapagos, we have a brown scum line at the water – almost a spattering. I have no idea what it is. Whether man made or otherwise, it looks a mess.

P10202671_thumb

 

We also got the wind generator working again for the first time in three days. Hopefully we can save a bit of time on the genset today.

Vaguebond told us to watch out for Chinese fishing boats, one of which he had had to dodge last night. We saw one of them that was going N. It wouldn’t talk to us which was a little disappointing as it is the first boat we have seen in over a week.  It went by a mile behind us.

P10202661_thumb

 

A quiet day otherwise. The girls watched something called “Glee” and much reading was done. Less than 700miles to go!

Day 20 – Sun 29 May    07 46.753S  128 55.377W  134 miles

There is, we found during the night, something called the wrong kind of wind. A crap mixed sea, lots of side slapping just killing our speed, an apparent of 15-18kts, jib only (just too much for the parasail) and 3 to 4kts of boat speed. Lou and I were near in tears trying to get something to work. Lou’s watch was shocking. 10miles in 3 hours. It has to have been the most frustrating 12hrs we have had.

By 0800L, the wind had calmed enough for H and I to throw up the parasail. It was cheeky sailing with gusts regularly getting up to beyond the theoretical maximum of the sail but we rode it out and the wind steadied as the morning went on. The rest of the day we fired along with 6s and 7s. We had expected to do less than 120 after the dreadful start to the day. 134 was a very pleasant surprise.

By the looks of the weather forecast, we need to keep firing on too. There seems to be a hole developing behind us which will make its way as far W as 132W in about 36hrs. We need to be on the other side of that line to make sure we have wind for the final leg into Hiva Oa. If we keep the wind for the next 24hrs, we should do it.

We finished the eggs today. Lou used them up for one last fahata with a side dish of cabbage and butter. Dinner was interrupted by the arrival of a big pod of dolphin, only the second pod we have seen in the crossing. We enjoyed their aerial display.

P1020276_thumb1

 

One thing that H has reinstigated recently and that we are all loving, is the evening bedtime reading of a story. Although both girls read prolifically, it is great that H wants to roll back the clock and be “little” again for a while. Note the luci lantern, still in our opinion one of the best inventions ever,  tied off on the spinnaker sheet.

 P1020280_thumb2

 

We ended the day playing dodgems with another three enormous fishing boats. None wished to speak to us. 

Day 21 – Mon 30 May 08 08.832S  131 11.131W  138 miles

What a lovely day. Or at least up to 1400hrs. We had been firing along at 6-8s with 15kts true from the ENE. The wind started to drop to sub 10kts true, then we had a squall, a touch of rain (a few spots rather than anything really wet!) and then back to 12kts true. Perhaps the weather gods are being unkind and the hole is forming early. We put the parasail back up and ran along at about 5-6kts. We have our fingers crossed that the wind lasts. To help us along, the sea is now running straight for the islands so is giving us a bit of a shunt too.

Eleanor made dough this morning so we had a cob loaf for lunch.

Minecraft mania has started again on the boat. After a couple of months of never ending discussion which died in Grenada, we seem to be back into the game with a vengeance. The girls are reciting  data out of the Minecraft hand books and are building each other huge skyscrapers. It is keeping them occupied. Dad, of course, has joined in. He is in full combat mode rather than creative, has a big sword and is loving the mindless violence!

We had more luck with the rod this evening. A cracking black fin tuna, about 30lbs. We really need to get some scales to measure properly. We cut steaks off it. Once we had bagged it, we had enough meat for 8 meals for 4 people. On the basis we have had a bit more luck than they, we have promised Vaguebond some of the spoil.

 

IMG_2480_thumb

 

The wind has dropped this evening. The sky was initially overcast but thankfully has gone clear. With the moon rising after 0100, it means a dark night which is a little worrisome as we intend to fly the parasail right through. We are hoping for a steady breeze to get us over the 133W line by the morning.

Day 22 – Tue 31 May

The wind died and died as the night went on to the point that the parasail was struggling to stay filled. We moseyed along doing 3-4kts. Frankly I gave up worrying and enjoyed watching the amazing dark sky above us. The Magellan clouds were so clear.

First light saw us joined by a small pod of dolphin. A great way to start the day. Dawn came a few minutes later – 0700hrs today. The sun was just able to peek out under the cloud that was rolling in behind us. This gave us squalls and rubbish for much of the morning.

 P1020298_thumb1

Lou spoilt us for breakfast today, leaving us out some bacon with instructions to “use it all”. Happily, dear, happily.

Come morning the wind strengthened to 12kts from the E but we sailed into the hole at 1500hrs. The stb engine is on and we will run until the wind appears to be favourable again. It is about 40 miles to the 134W line. I’m hoping that the wind will fill in by then. If not, we will run further W until we do pick up the breeze. We have decided not to wait and allow nature it take its course. We want to be there now.

We had a real bouncing downpour today, our first prolonged rain since Panama. I had a great time cleaning the decks and then there was plenty rain left to allow us to each stand outside, strip off and have a free, warm shower. Lovely!

P1020302_thumb1

With the time of arrival down to less than 100hrs, the GPS has started to give us an estimated arrival time. About 70hrs at current speed. Fingers crossed…….

We are missing Ferne’s of Jade birthday. She turns 9 today. Hannah has already made her a present and in way of an apology for not getting to FP in time, she got to send Fern an email wishing her the best of the day.

We had enough light left for a bit of tomfoolery as well. Does everyone know Hannah has very, very tickly feet?

 P1020303_thumb

Day 23 – Wed 1 Jun  09 02.640S  143 43.350W   95 miles 

I was thinking of doing one more time zone change to ready us for the –9.5 UTC setting on the Marquesas but as it means the morning radio traffic with Vaguebond then falls into the period we are using for the generator (and more importantly, my non-comms using wife’s watch!), we have decided just to stay at –8 UTC until our arrival.

We finally hit wind again at 0830hrs this morning at 134 28W, a bit further W than expected. Only 7kts but enough for us to get the parasail up and the engines off. Blessed peace! We haven’t seen anymore than the occasional sniff of 10kts, the av being 8 all day and we are running at 4kts. Not a fast day but we are moving.

We are now close enough for lots of questions on when we will see land. Unfortunately it looks like another couple of days before we reach land now unless our speed picks up markedly.

Tonight’s fare was a chicken pasta bake. Eleanor did us proud earlier with a no bake chocolate cookie mix which was so good, it didn’t last long.

We heard this morning that the main issue of no email we have been having, that of not being able to hit Mahini, is because Mahani isn’t working. They are waiting for new parts. Apparently there is the intention of putting a new station in on Hiva Oa as well, but this is some months off. Perhaps next time round…… We did talk to Vaguebond and Plastik Plankton (the couple that helped us through the Panama Canal) tonight. PP is waiting for us at Hiva Oa. We are really looking forward to catching up with Wolfgang and Kathi, two really nice people.

It looks like a clear night tonight. There is a little high cloud but the sky is already wonderfully clear. Stargazing is on the agenda tonight.

Day 24 – Thu 2 Jun     09 20.334S  136 11.448W  88 miles

I wish I could adequately describe the night sky here. I fell in love with offshore sailing many years ago when I helped my father take a boat from the N of England up the North Sea, through the Caledonian Canal and back down towards Oban. Being the youngster on board I had a night to myself, motoring 50 miles offshore on a mirrored sea, in what was probably my first proper dark sky, being amazed at the brightness of the heavens. The sky here is equally as awe inspiring with the Milky Way blazing overhead. We have Jupiter, Saturn and Mars up with us too and I can see moons on the first two.  No pictures are possible whilst we are at sea as our camera is not up to it but I will try to take some long exposure pictures once we reach the stability of land.

The night’s passage was very slow with a 5-9kt wind blowing us along at 3-4kts. There is no sea to bother us. We had a beautiful sunrise with the E sky ablaze but little wind to go with it.

P1020307_thumb2

 

For our morning’s entertainment, the girls and I played Mah-Jongg. Hannah came out on top by some way.  Kirsty will be pleased to know Hannah logged all the hands in her notebook for further analysis.

We trogged along during the day with the mileage slowly falling to less than 150miles. Far too slowly for Lou whose morale is shot. I think she needs gin…..

We gave up with sail at 1455hrs and switched the engine on. With 2kts true, we couldn’t fly the parasail. The wind didn’t make another appearance and we gave up even trying to motor sail. We headed towards Hiva Oa on a bearing of 248.

Vaguebond is 60miles out and should arrive tomorrow morning. We will be a day behind them as we will need to slow and will arrive Saturday morning now.

We had a memorable event tonight. Our log reached 10000 miles which means we have now travelled 8400miles since the start of our journey.

 

P1020308_thumb1 

Day 25 – Fri 3 Jun 09 40.532S 137 51.632W 103 miles

The wind failed us again, blowing at 3-5kts overnight. Just tedious. I really hate motoring but with about a 100miles to go, I will be divorced if I suggest taking another a couple of days to drift in.

However, at 0615hrs the wind finally kicked back in with a steady 10kts out of the E. Parasail went back up and the engine went off. Strangely the girls both woke because of the sudden lack of noise so I was joined by them for sunrise.

 P1020314_thumb2  P1020319_thumb2

 

Hannah has decided that she needs to get her tan back. It has flaked off in a rather amusing piebald way which she is not happy about. Her morning activity included lazing on the foredeck.

 

P1020320_thumb1

 

Finally – 1455 LAND HO! We could just see the end of the Hiva Oa rising out of the sea. There was a fair amount of excitement and jumping around. 

By mid afternoon, we had but 60 miles left to run and plenty of time to get there for first light tomorrow. The parasail came down and up went the jib.

Our last evening meal was a doozy. A corned beef pie with fresh potatoes and beans on the side. If there isn’t any wind tonight, I’m sure the Henderson side of the family can supplement!

We decided that the last of the grapefruit, never our favourites, should be sacrificed to thank Neptune for a safe crossing. Ever hopeful, Hannah took it as an opportunity to model new boobs but we did get some throwing practise in too!

P1020322_thumb2  P1020323_thumb3

We talked to Kathi from Plastik Plankton and Jean from Out of the Bag this evening. PP will be waiting for us tomorrow morning and gave us an idea of the anchorage we are heading for including a good spot we should be able to take, single anchor only. Seems that the anchorage is quiet at the moment with few boats in.

Day 26 – Sat 4 Jun    Time Zone change to –9.5UTC – Marquesas time

By midnight, we had a whole 20 miles left to run as we slowly made our way along the S side of the island, about 5miles off, under jib. There are no lights on shore at all and with no moon left, it is very dark tonight and the only reason I can make out the island is by realising I can’t see stars to the horizon to my N

The girls are sleeping upstairs tonight. Although we could see the islands of Hiva Oa and Mohotani as the sun set behind them last night, they were still a great distance off. They both wanted to make sure they are up to see land “properly” at first light.  Which they did!

P1020326_thumb2  P1020327_thumb2

 

The weather for our arrival was not auspicious but gave us one last chance to wash the salt off Skylark.

P1020328_thumb1 

 

We had one worrying incident as we came in. As we were positioning ourselves to anchor, the Stb engine gear cable ( the one that froze on us just as we left Galapagos – then freed itself) snapped with the engine in forward and I was unable to change it. I had to kill it which left us with limited manoeuvrability. Some very quick dropping of dinghy allowed us to throw a stern anchor out on our rode line, stopping us from piling in to another boat.

The anchorage is everything I dreamed off. A spectacular view with being overlooked by an enormous hill. The island is so lush after the dry, drought ridden Caribbean and Galapagos islands. Can’t wait to start exploring.

Skylark, arriving!

 

P1020348  P1020351

 

Summary

Departed   00 57.933S  090 57.700W   Isabela, Galapagos on 10 May 16

Arrived       09 48.167S  139 01.866W   Hiva Oa, Marquesas on 4 Jun 16

 

Total Distance by log: 2985 miles

Total time: 24days 21hrs

Av speed: 5kts

P1020361

Crossing the Pacific–Part I

When we first looked at crossing the Pacific, many years ago, it was a romantic dream. Now we are at the point of leaving, it has suddenly becomes a huge and slightly worrying distance. 

We think we have got everything ready.

Boat  – prepared as much as we can. Sails ok. Rigging checked and we have balanced the boat. Bottom cleaned. Steering gear ok. Through hulls checked. Winches done. Lines checked.  Rudders  have some play but we can’t replace the bearings accurately until we get pulled out. Opinion of two other skippers I trust is that they should last no problems to the Marquesas. They will need to be watched.

Power – Generator and boat engines both serviced. Solar cleaned and wiring checked. Good output for all. Wind generator doing as it has done the last 3 weeks, sitting idol. Looking forward to getting into some wind

Fuel – diesel full. Gas bottles refilled.

Water  – filled up and water maker ok.

Food – Enough tinned and dry for months. Fresh being loaded today. Far too many bananas for my mind but on the positive, I think we even found a couple of cauliflower.

Charts – E and paper checked and ready. We will switch chips to the central Pacific one as we leave Isabela.

Electronic gadgets – EPIRB, HF Radio, computer, Pactor4, spare GPS,  even the damn inReach seems to be behaving…..

Grab bag and safety stuff – nearly all checked and packed.

Forecast – There is wind at 02 30S says the forecasts with 10-15knts from the SE. That would be perfect. A bit of slow stuff before we reach there though.

Think we are ready. Tomorrow is our last day in the Galapagos. We are going exploring on bikes and the kids will play with their friends for the last time in a while. On Tuesday, we take a deep breathe and go for it.

Day 1 – Tue 10 May  Posn at 1200 local  00 59.231S  090 59.590W   Distance travelled in day: 74 miles

We had a busy final morning. Stewart cleaned the hull of weed and lots of tiny crabs. Lou got the boat tidy, hiding away the 60 eggs she got yesterday, doing one last wash and cleaning the shoes of Galapagos dirt. We headed across to Quatra for a farewell coffee. Next time we see them will be Raitea in about a years time. Lovely people and great kids. I think that both girls will miss Arsene hugely. Hannah will also miss having “big brother”, Axel to look up to.  And then we did exactly the same with Jane and Alex on Starcharger. We lifted the hook at 1115hrs and were honked out of the bay by Starcharger and Sanuk. The girls answered with the conch horn. Alistair and Gill managed an impressive shout out from the Volcano on the handheld as they watched us leave.

We have had about 5-8kts of SE wind for the rest of the day but have motor sailed throughout @ 230 to try and get down to the trades as quickly as possible. There seems to be a knot of current helping us. Long may it last.

We have seen some spectacular wildlife too. First of all, we nearly ran over a Manta Ray. Eleanor thought it was about 15’ across. Another two wandered past the boat, fins just breaking the flat water we had. We then saw one jumping twice and we could hear the splash at several hundred metres. Within an hour we spotted a huge dorsal fin and tail of a Whale Shark. It meandered away from us as we tried to work out how big it was. We decided sodding huge was an adequate description. We definitely lucked out seeing both of these. It was a great way to leave Isabela.

 P1020204

As the light failed, we had a perfect cloudless sunset (sadly still no green flash) and our last sight of land for the next 3000 miles.

One issue today. The starboard engine control seems to have partly frozen. The engine won’t go into neutral unless clicked into by hand in the engine room. Hopefully just a lubrication issue.

Day 2 – Wed 11 May   02 26.742S  092 44.125W  127 miles

Over night we had a fog and very heavy dew. The free fresh water allowed us to get a lot of dirt off the boat but it felt clammy and cold. The girls did a good job killing the annoying flies left on the boat before, shock, horror, volunteering to do some school “because that’s what Tika does” – without argument. Thank you, Rusty and Greer!

Our first full day at sea and with it came the disappointment of a lack of wind. We have been running one engine for most of the day to try and keep us moving S in to the Trades. We thought we had reached them as the wind jumped beyond the 10 mark for 30 mins but it quickly fell away. Hopefully things will pick up tomorrow.

The only items of interest today are a Red Footed Boobie (to be known as “Breena” says H) that has come to stay awhile and a 150’+ fishing? boat of a design I’ve never seen before, sporting a very high spotting mast and crows nest and what looked like a couple of big chase boats on her back deck at an angle of 45. Strange looking thing. A whaling vessel?l

P1020214    P1020215

We managed to talk briefly to Tika and Jade this morning on the HF. Hopefully we will get a better chat with them tomorrow as we plan to move the timing later to get better atmospherics. We heard Free Spirit on the evening Magellan net. Most of the boats this evening seem to be moving along the equator using the current and will head SW to the Marquesas beyond 125W. A different approach to ours but then most are coming straight from Panama.

Dinner tonight is a fantastic smelling Pasta Bake. May as well make best use of the fresh whilst we have it!

Day 3 – Thu 12 May  03 23.571S  094 25.004W 111 miles

We hit the trades at about 0700local. At first light we had put up the parasail and we watched the wind gradually strengthen to a lovely 13-15kts from the ESE. The only disappointment is we seem to have lost the 1kt current that has been helping us up until now so we are making only 6kts @ 245. Eleanor has been working at her Competent Crew book and Hannah stood a proper watch (with Dad not so far away). Message received from Quatra to say their missing delivery boat, Seyla had finally turned up at Santa Cruz. Typically, I sent the message out trying to find her on the last message sent before I received theirs…… Cancel sent.

We caught our first fish – a very small black fin tuna that we threw back. We are hoping for something that would actually feed all of us.

We changed down from parasail to plain sail for the night.

Day 4 – Fri 13 May  03 50.744S  095 32.794W 72 miles

Where has the wind gone? It dropped to near zero through the night. Thankfully the sea went slack too but we had a couple of hours of unpleasant hours in a lazy sea slopping around before it did. We dropped the main at 0200local to prevent damage (and noise) and tied the jib out. The morning finds us with a F1 from the NE. Our saving grace is a 1.25kt current taking us W.

By 0900 local we had the Parasail up. It takes 4kts to set and we struggled to find even this throughout the morning. By early afternoon we had had enough of 1kt an hour so put the motor on to run SW. We continued to run SW to get into the 04S. GRIBs say there is wind there. Fingers crossed.

The light wind stayed with us right through the day. Picked up for a while in the evening but a poor day all told. 72miles only

Looks like our Boobie has finally left us this morning. Time to clean the deck……

 

Day 5 – Sat 14 May  04 13.097S  097 20.898W 140 miles

We had to drop the main as no wind and mixed seas were causing a lot of banging. Finally a Wave (the Pacific equivalent of a front but not associated with a clearly defined weather system) went through in the small hours, giving us some rain, a few mild squalls and an even more mixed sea.

The wind filled back in about 0630local back to 15kts and we have set course @260 with Main 1 reef (due to the crap seas – less banging and chance of damage) and Jib. We are hoping that the sea settles into something more regular and with a Pacific length. Flying along at 7-8kts.  I’m hoping this is us properly into the Trades now.

Brownies were baked by E. Lou did a fine bread.

We lost two lures today. Our line to the excellent cedar plug of previous great success, fizzed out and then the line broke with enough pressure that it pinged the line back on to the bimini roof. The replacement lasted the first bite and disappeared as well. Not very happy. We need to make sure we can slow the boat quicker. 

We are starting to see more deep water birds. Storm petrols, fulmar type and lots of large terns.

We heard that Lumiel reached Hiva Oa a couple of days ago. A quick passage!

 

Day 6 – Sun 15 May 04 27.307S 099 49.184W  130 miles

A good steady day with reasonable wind all day and 130miles over the day. The parasail went up early and we had a good run until early afternoon when the apparent jumped to close to 15kts – the max the sail can take. We took it down and replaced with plain sail and satisfactorily went along at 6+kts. The wind died as the evening progressed but we stayed with plain sail through the night.

INSERT DOLPHIN VIDEO HERE  – needs to be done from Youtube account whilst online.

We were joined by a huge pod of dolphin that were a lot more energetic than the norm. They were having a great time!

We caught another Black fin Tuna today. Eleanor did the honours of gutting and filleting it. She is getting pretty good at this already. We are all hoping for a decent sized fish at some point. This one was no more than three kilos.

Lou is now trying to get through the eggs. Two bad eggs stank the boat out today. They were from an earlier buy but we are concerned that we may need to start getting through the remaining 60 a bit quicker than we are! Need to do some turning.

Had to change a gas bottle today. On the basis we had changed it a week before, the last one must have leaked badly. It should have lasted 6 weeks. Need to monitor the next one.

We seem to be averaging just over 5kts as we go along. I had hoped for a bit better. We moved waypoints today and our next, some 500 miles off only takes us another degree S. I’m slightly concerned that we have lost the advantage of the current again. The latitude we are is supposed to be where the best of it is. I’ll ask on the net tomorrow where others found it strongest. I’ve done the same with Taranga by email.

 

Day 7 – Mon 16 May  04 35.458S  101 48.699W   138 miles

The wind has steadied but the sea remains a mixed pain which is both slapping us and slowing us down. We ended up with the wind a little too S for the parasail so we stayed with plain sail all day. 6s and 7s for the afternoon and evening. Nice to be in the third digit of Longitude finally.

It is amazing how little change there is in the wind, either by bearing or strength, here. A big change is 5 degrees and that lasts normally for no more than an hour before it goes back to a ESE, around 110degrees. Long may the Trades last!

Little to report for on board activities today. Lots of reading done.

We had the tuna tonight seared and served with “special” rice – lovely.

We got mention of squalls at the 104W line by Out of the Bag, a boat in front of us. Something to look out for tomorrow.

 

Day 8 – Tue 17 May   04 55.570S  104 15.262W  139 miles

A day of squalls indeed. Sails up, down, changed side, washing machine rubbish. Not much fun at all. We had gusts to 30kts but most squalls topped out in the high twenties. We have been running @ 250-255 for most of the day. We really need a bit more W rather than WSW but with the number of squalls coming through we can’t trust the parasail up and as always, our downhill ability is poor, losing the jib if the main is up after the wind app goes more than 135.

I sometimes get jealous of other yachts we are out here with. Out of the Bag, with Bill and Jean, an Aus couple we met in Galapagos did 225miles yesterday. Very envious. Saying that, we have caught and past a monohull, Vanguard,  up near the Equator we have been speaking to on the net for the last week. We aren’t doing too badly.

The discussion goes on about what the fastest route. A NZ weather forecaster, the Pacific equivalent to Chris Parker in the Caribbean is suggesting staying around the 5S line until 130W then heading straight for the last few hundred miles. Seems that is where the current ends. The difficult thing is that the angle to travel due W is not a good one with the seas as they are which is why we have been very slowly moving S. We may, however, just have to grin and bear it for the sake of the current. On the basis we are covering just over two degrees a day, that is another 12-13 days before we head S.

On the upside, we got some decent rain with the squalls too. The decks are cleaned of the squid stains and the crusty salt bits that were starting to show on the solar panels have all gone.

I think this is the first day where Lou and I have felt properly tired. There is no reluctance to head straight to bed after a watch. E is being a great help and is standing in for the odd hour here and there. It makes a difference.

 

Day 9 – Wed 18 May. TIMEWARP to –7UTC.    05 05.643S  106 28.372W  121miles

The hour before dawn is turning into the hour to watch. For the last few days, the wind increases for about 45 mins dramatically, then backs into the S  before dropping away to less than 10kts for an hour or so.  Today we had a sustained period of 28+ kts(F7). We had run through the night with 2 reefs in, still averaging 6s, which meant all we needed to do was tuck away lots of jib. Still, bursts of 10+kts with the boat as heavy as she is at the moment meant there was some serious force on the sails. For us the weather is a bit cheeky; for Out of the Bag with another 5’ of length and built for speed rather than comfort, they did a 240mile day. Sigh………

P1020220  P1020227 

It does mean we are getting some beautiful sunsets and dawns. These are our last two. Red sky at night and all that doesn’t seem quite to be accurate!

After getting chucked down the stairs (lovely bruise on my backside and hip too), I got bored with the cross sea rubbish and the banging of the main so dumped it and ran under jib only with a far kinder tail sea, pulling in and out as the squalls came through. We have moved a little further N to try and stay in the best of the current. Tony on Tactical Direction, another boat on the morning net, got a full load down from his mate in Aus which says it is running strongest between 03-05S at the moment although there is positive current all the way down to about 09S. Happy days. Next update on Sunday.

The wind for the rest of the day has been around 12kts true. We had a couple of squalls miss us . With us going back in time and the moon waxing, we are starting to get a good moonlight for the night. A lot nicer than the black out we had over the first week.

We reached the 1000mile point today. It means Lou can now claim full membership rights to the Ocean Cruising Club and we are wondering if we should do the same for the kids. Is there a family membership available?

Another fish today. We seem to be doing well with small tuna. Enough for a meal but not enough for the freezer. May have to try another lure.

First cry of “are we nearly there yet?” today.

Day 10 – Thu 19 May   04 51.970S  108 20.767W  121miles

A comfortable night’s sail av 5kts with about 8kts over the deck. The current is definitely helping although another 5kts of wind would be helpful too. 

We are having a bit of a set to over when to switch the generator on. We haven’t seen a huge amount of sun the last few days and the autohelm has been working hard. Even though Lou hand steered the last hour of her watch, at first light the batteries were at 12.1V, a lot lower than we want them. Looks like we need to set a cut off point and start up accordingly.

Task for today was to replace the topping lift which I had hoped would last a little longer. I partly replaced the line whilst we crossed from Panama but another part of the line shredded yesterday. We stitched the old and new lines together, pulled it through and up the mast – no problem.   Our topping lift is now a pretty blue. Our thanks to Invictus for bringing us the line out from Panama.

P1020229

Eleanor learnt a new trick this morning – how to do whipping. A marvellous morning was had, whipping everything! Watch out for lots of red at the end of all our ropes. Note for me – buy more No 4 whipping line – we are nearly out. 

We have had a tedious day of too much wind, then nil, then just about enough and so around the loop again. And lots of very light showers. The parasail was up and down three times before we had enough and stuck to the jib.

Lou did an excellent tuna and noodles supper – v good.

 

Day 11 – Fri 20 May  04 49.489S  110 18.088W  115 miles

More showers and squalls overnight. Lots of cloud and few stars. It is safe running under jib only at night but it isn’t the fastest of passages.

Hey ho. I love my pactor4 modem. It really does do what it says on the tin. The email service is excellent – I wish Gmail was as quick and simple – and I am hitting Panama, now about 2000 miles away with ease getting about 3-5000bit per sec connection rate. I’m still needing to minimise what I send out as I only get 30 mins connection a month but it means my weather is always up to date (Airmail 3.5 has a great GRIB request format).

Eleanor did some baking and produced some excellent muffins today. Lou bribed the girls with the promise of M&Ms. It is amazing how spotless a bedroom can get when there is a proper incentive!

For the first time in days, a clear day sky equals good solar output, giving the batteries a good shunt. I’m hoping we have seen the last of the cloud for a while.

I tried to get one of the ends of the main traveller today to check the rod size that my great friend, John McMenamin is getting me from Z-Spar back in the UK. It ended in abject failure with one of the screw heads pinging off, leaving the body of a screw still through the deck and end piece and another screw refusing to turn at all, costing me a screwdriver which, with a bit of swearing was thrown with some feeling into the deep blue Pacific………. There isn’t enough broken screw to fix said end back to the deck. Unable to shift it either by drilling it out (dangerous trying to drill out a steel screw held in an aluminium body as I found out) or a hammer, I’ve had to just put everything back together. Not sure what to do now….. Better drill and a bigger screwdriver I suppose…… It will need to wait to the Marquesas.

It was pretty rocky today. Jib only as I worked on the traveller then whilst we had mainly a 15kt ESE breeze it fluked up past 20 all too regularly for the parasail.  We seem to be in a counter current at the moment and it feels as if Skylark is dragging an anchor we are going so slowly. We should be doing 5-6kts; we are seeing 3-4kts. Just tedious. Started to move a little further S with the main back up to see if we can push on a little.

 

Day 12 – Sat 21 May 04 47.811S 112 03.513W  118miles

We saw our first sign of human life for a while today. A big ship on route to Panama  screamed past us at a range of about 5 miles. They will be there in 3 days said the radio op! I wouldn’t mind that kind of pace at the moment.

 P1020231

Moving S, we hit a westbound current again at 04 47S. Skylark suddenly felt as if she was moving properly.

The rest of the day passed very uneventfully. We watched some crap films. I had forgotten how bad  David Bowie’s Labyrinth was but the girls seemed to like it. Hot Fuzz was deemed completely inappropriate for the girls but I caught H watching it, nervously giggling like a mad thing, more at the bad language rather than the story line.

Other than that? Not much today……

 

Day 13 – Sun 22 May      05 01.362S 114 23.476W  142 miles

Way to go! We have made the half way point with a good mileage too. “All downhill from here, dear” says I …… the Taia and So What crews might see the humour of that comment and guess the response I got…..  Smile 

Again not exactly a busy day other than the daily maintenance check of the rigging and sails.  We do need to fix the sail cover and one of the sail cover pole stiffener fittings. We will be looking to borrow a sailrite machine when we get to FP. It is too much for our wee Singer.

The sails haven’t needed to be touched all day with a lovely honest and constant breeze which has set in from the SE.  Up to now, we have had ESE wind which fluke around for an hour or so at first light. Says the forecast and in Vaguebond’s opinion as well, we should have this for about four days.  I’ve also decided it is time to start heading on the rhumb line rather than try and use the strongest current. After losing a lot of mileage to a duff current prediction, I’m more in favour now of making sure the boat sails at a decent angle to get good boat speed, rather than the run with current we have been using for the last ten days.

With the wind in the SE, we can now sail on a beam reach on the rhomb line, which is perfect for Skylark. All plain sail set.

I have to admit to loving my HF set. We have an Icom 802 and the 140 auto tuner which, paired with a rope antenna and the KISS ground plane, is working beautifully. Saying that, the propagation on the morning net is getting difficult as we move further W and we decided that we would move it back to 0100UTC tomorrow to hopefully get a better signal. We are still managing to talk to Out of the Bag, some 1400miles in front of us but it should be easier from tomorrow.   I’m still trying to get Lou to use the set. She isn’t keen. It must be some hangover from R Sig days!

I decided it was time for a haircut again. I like my short hair. Easier to maintain too. The girls took great delight in taking turns in clippering it off and Lou did the tidying up. My beard, which will remain on until we get to the Marquesas, is now longer than my hair.

   P1020237  P1020239

Lou made a chicken pasty which went down extremely well.  Note E’s sneaky hand coming in to nick a carrot!

P1020241

Galapagos–Isabela

Having finally received the new bearings for the rudders, we were keen to leave Santa Cruz as quickly as possible. Lou phoned our agent, Irene and an hour later we were stood in front of the Immigration man who cleared us out of Ecuador. We needed to clear out from Santa Cruz as Isabela, although the most obvious island to leave from, 60 miles W of Santa Cruz, doesn’t have any Customs or Immigration facilities. We also got our Zarpe from the Port Captain, allowing us to move to Isabela. It is a bit of a strange system. Officially we have left the country but we have as much time as we really want in Isabela as long as Isabela was on the original Autografo. Some people without agent are given a time limit of just a few days by the Port Captain. We, with the excellent James Hinkle acting for us, Bolivar Pesante’s island representative, are treated a little different, I fear simply because money is seen to be going into someone’s pocket on the island.

We decided to travel overnight and had a tedious motor-sail into about 5kts of wind. It was very very dark with no moon and only the occasional glimpse of stars. We woke to the islands showing the form of a huge  largely sunken caldera with boobies dive bombing around us.

IMG_1232

 

We arrived at Puerto Villamil at 1115hrs, parked up beside Taranga and in front of Jade. The Port Captain’s representative was on board within 10 minutes. After a little bit of confusion, we fed him coffee, James spoke to him on the radio and we promised to bring all the paperwork ashore for James to present to officialdom. James is an American, who, having driven to Ecuador in the 1960’s, became one of the first Darwin Guides and married a local. After raising his family in the USA, he and his wife have retired back to Isabela. They are a lovely couple and of great help to us both here and in helping with some pushing of FEDEX when we were back in Santa Cruz.

A quick word on the anchorage here. Having got used to the surge and roll of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, it was a delight to anchor in 5m of water in  a wonderfully sheltered bay, protected by low islands and reefs. We have not had more than 10 boats in at any one time.

P1020045           P1020088

 

It is the best anchorage we have been in for months with no swell at all and even the monohulls sit unmoving beside us. It is also beautifully picturesque.  Strangely, it reminds me strongly of some anchorages in Scotland. It is the only official anchorage that Charlie’s Charts doesn’t have a picture off.  Trying to keep people away?  Maybe.  The other delight is the lack of traffic here.  There are few tourist boats operating here and only the occasional taxi so there is very little wash.

The anchorage is full of life.  Turtles, baby sharks, sea-lions and penguins.  Tiny little things but real penguins.  And Manta Rays.  Great big enormous wonderful Manta Rays.  One we caught a glimpse of, decided to have a tour around the anchorage.  No photos yet but we are still hopeful.

P1020039  IMG_1226 (44)

As with all the islands, you are restricted from doing most things sensible with your boat.  You may snorkel around your boat (but not clean it) but may not go across to the reef to where the iguana and penguins hang out as this is the main snorkel area for the locals to bring the tourists.  If you want to go there, you need to pay.  However, no one seems to bother you if you use a canoe.  There are a couple of beaches ashore by the harbour that you can snorkel off which are well used but full of iguana, turtles and seals.  The main beach which starts at the town and heads W is great.  White sand, good surf and there is a good play park too. Close to the play park and across the road from the Captain’s office are public showers.  The water gets switched on to them around 1700hrs daily for people to rinse off from the beach.  

There is a dinghy dock here so you can get yourself to shore without the need of the rather expensive water taxi ($2 a head each way – for comparison, Santa Cruz was $0.80).  Advise is to make sure you lock everything up and take the fuel hose with you.  Our friends on Tika came back to find theirs had been stolen.  Not impressed.  Make sure you tie up on the inside of the dinghy dock too.  The locals use the dinghies as big fenders as they crash in.  Not real friendly.  Returning to your yacht after night fall is a challenge as there is a reef, rocks and a sandbar between the dock and the anchorage.  Make sure you take a BIG torch to allow you to spot the infrequent buoys marking the safe route and I’d advise having a good look at the route in daylight hours before you try it at night.  Lots of people have either ended up crunching their propellers or running aground. 

The town is a bit sleepy but I love the fact that other than a pompously wide road from the dock which stops short of town, the rest of the roads are either sand  or volcanic gravel.  There is a good selection of restaurants which are reasonably priced, particularly for lunch, and have a great selection of sea foods.

IMG_1233

One note on money.  There are no ATMs on the island so you will need to load up with cash before you reach here.  The bank is a basic one and for locals to use, not tourists.  Beware also the bars and restaurants with signs up saying that they can take credit cards.  They can but there will be a service charge of 22%!!  They know they have you over a barrel if you haven’t brought cash………

The girls have had an active social life here.  We have had a couple of sleep overs and birthdays too.  Grace and Evie, two UK girls travelling with their parents Adrian and Christine, by land around the world came for a stay.  Evie turned 7 and had a birthday party of pizza and far too much sugar!

IMG_5068  IMG_5069

Then, having had Meriel stay (the girl with the interesting choice of headwear) the girls had a return night with her and Nerana, her sister, on Persevere.  They had a couple of film nights there as well, watching on their huge TV – a 60” beast!

P1020032

 

Then we continued the surfing education at a birthday party for Arsene off Quatra who turned 10.  Audrey, his mum surprised us with a fantastic birthday feast on the beach.  

P1020049   P1020051    P1020053   P1020061   P1020060 P1020058 P1020055

 

The S end of the island can be explored by bicycle and although the sand tracks are hard work, it is great fun.  We were joined on this trip by Pickles, Gill from Starcharger’s ever present childhood bear, who Hannah carried and introduced to a number of new friends!  Watch out for him in the photos.

P1020063  P1020070   

 

There are tourist trips to The Tunnels (volcanic tubes – now flooded) but you aren’t allowed to snorkel in them and we thought $80 a head was a bit steep.  However, on the bike route we found a tube running down to the sea that we could explore for free.

P1020104  P1020109

 

We also visited the Wall of Tears, built by political prisoners between 1945-59 as something meaninglessly tedious to do.  The island had a fearsome reputation and many prisoners died here.  The wall is huge. Roughly 10m high, about the same wide and it is about 300m long.

 

P1020073    P1020077

The climb above the Wall of Tears to the three viewpoints is hot, long but worth it.  We nearly broke the kids!  You get a spectacular view along the S coast of Isabela  and inland to the highlands.  The gentle breeze at that height is a life saver too.

P1020087 

P1020091 P1020093

 

Having cooked on the bike trip to the Wall of Tears (there is a lot of uphill riding required), we were all ready to cool down.  We visited two gorgeous beaches, Playa del Amor and La Playita, that we shared with more marine Iguanas than we have seen before and an awful lot of land crabs.

 

P1020155P1020159  P1020162 P1020164   P1020114 P1020115 P1020135 P1020139  P1020151

Although there is a “official” flamingo lake, a inland brine affair, the birds don’t like it! We were pointed to a pit near to the Tortoise Sanctuary just N of the town as a better place to go to see these pink marvels. We also saw some lovely little birds showing no fear of us at all.  Twitchers – over to you to name them please.

 

 P1020165 P1020177P1020179 P1020187P1020188

 

Hannah found us a wild Tortoise, a rare find, dozing under a tree whilst she was looking for some shade on the bike ride out and it was still there on our way back to the beaches.  By its size, we think it was about 50 years old.  We also stopped in at the Tortoise Sanctuary to look at the work being down there.  Currently there are about 800 turtles being raised, a mix of the five species of Tortoise present on Isabela.  The great difficulty that the tortoise have is that rats, introduced from ships visiting in the past, eat the eggs and it has become more and more difficult for tortoise to survive to hatching, let alone the first few years.  The Sanctuary raises the tortoise until their size can give them the protection they need.

 

P1020103      P1020190 P1020193

 

We were recommended a good snorkelling site, El Eskro,  by Gem, a London lass working at at the Surf and Bike shop.  However, try and go at low water.  There is too much surf at anything more than half water.  We rented both surf boards and bikes from that shop and were impressed with the price and quality of kit.  A handy map of the area is below. 

P1020199

We made the boat ready for the crossing with the last of the provisioning done in the small supermarkets here.  The Farmer’s Market, held on a Saturday, was a disappointment with little in the way of offerings and poor quality.  The problem is lack of rain.  Produce just isn’t growing either as large or as plentifully as is the norm.  Hopefully once El Nino has cleared things will improve.

With a significant amount of help from fellow OCC members, Starcharger (Alisdair, Gill, Jane and Alex) we tried but failed to fix the rudders.  After all the palaver of waiting for the rudder bearings, once we dropped the rudders out to be able to get at the bearings, we found that replacing them correctly in alignment was near impossible without lifting Skylark out of the water.  Further, the bottom bearing had been epoxied in and the top actually had a layer of fibreglass over it so even digging them out is a major endeavour.  Foutaine Pajot’s name was taken in vain several times.  In the end, we replaced the rudder and have tightened everything up as much as we could.  There will remain a little movement in the stock and we will just need to monitor it and baby it as necessary until the Marquesas.  We commiserated our failure with an excellent chilli and far too much rum.

We have our Zarpe to allow us to leave 24hrs either side of 9th May and we think we have prepared as much as we can.  We are due light winds for the first couple of days but thereafter we should be in the trades.  All being well our next post should be from The Other Side of the World.